Many people are in the process of switching from a standard American diet full of processed foods to a more whole foods way of life. I am so encouraged to see more and more people on board, as I know that is can be very daunting, particularly in the beginning. One of the most common questions that I am asked at MAK (and in my personal life) is “What do you use for (fill in the blank)?” I find myself over and over again offering the same handful of ingredients, so today I want to share a list of 5 kitchen ingredients this real foodie always has stocked.
1. Coconut Oil
I use coconut oil for, basically every thing! Any recipe that calls for “vegetable oil” get an equivalent amount of melted coconut oil. If the recipe calls for “Crisco” or “shortening” I add the equivalent amount of solid coconut oil. I use coconut oil for greasing pans to keep food from sticking, to saute or pan fry foods, and often add a tablespoon (or two) to morning smoothies to help us absorb the nutrients and feel full longer. My favorite brand is Tropical Traditions, both their gold label and their expeller pressed (doesn’t taste like coconut), but I notice more and more that coconut oil is available at most health food stores, local grocery stores, and I even saw recently that Wal-Mart now carries it.
2. Butter (REAL butter!)
Mmm, mmm, mmm. I love butter. Probably one of my favorite things about a real food lifestyle is eating good butter-and knowing it is a good thing! While I wish I had access to grass-fed local cream year round, it is not an affordable or feasible option. I make my own butter when the cream is thick and plentiful, but when it isn’t, I use organic stick butter for baking and cooking, and Kerrygold grass-fed butter for serving.
3. Natural Sea Salt
I am not talking about the iodized stuff that costs less than a quarter for a couple of pounds. That stuff (i.e. table salt), is processed, stripped of all minerals, and has a very chemical taste. Natural Sea Salt on the other hand, is loaded with natural minerals and because it is unrefined, it is loaded with great flavor. You can use natural sea salt liberally, as it does not have the health implications that table salt does, but you will find over time that you use less and less as your taste buds adjust. I have used Dr. Mercola’s himalayan sea salt, but my favorite brand is Real Salt (and I have noticed it popping up on grocery store shelves lately. Yahoo for accessibility!).
4. Bone Broth
Apparently many people are intimidated by making their own bone broth. I am here to tell you that there are few real food tasks that are simpler! I have a tutorial here on how to make chicken broth in the crockpot, but please note that you can also use beef bones in place of the chicken bones. Bone broth has numerous health benefits (especially for the gut) and I love to add it to sauces, soups, and boil rice, pasta, or other grains in it for extra nutritional punch. I keep a constant supply in the freezer and when I run out, I quickly whip up another batch.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Even if you are brand new to the world of real food and/or natural health, you have likely heard at least a mention of Apple Cider Vinegar. The health benefits and uses for Apple Cider Vinegar are numerous, and you can read all about those in this post. But ACV can also be used in numerous ways in a real foodies kitchen. I like to add it to a pot of broth to pull out all of the nutrients, and you can drink it as a tea, use it to make salad dressings, and diluted with water, it makes a wonderful sanitizing cleaner for all of your kitchen surfaces.
If you have all of those and want to keep going, here are five bonus items for you: pastured eggs, dry beans, grass-fed/pastured meats, kombucha, and homemade yogurt (preferably from raw milk).
What is your “must-have” kitchen ingredient?